The King of Stories -- With All His Understanding...

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Btw, keep an eye out for the lawyer in the last exchange--for I suspect we have seen him twice before already, in related circumstances! Notice that the previous time the wedding feast parable is told (not quite as ramped up), it happens during a dinner party with Pharisees where a lawyer stands up to give Jesus a similar test, receiving the Good Samaritan parable in reply: a story set near Jericho. Then later, several days before this incident, as Jesus is passing through Jericho, a young chief is asking a similar question again more desperately. Third time's a charm, though... {s!}

With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)

Now (tell the Disciple, the Scholar and the Follower), it happened on one of the days when He had come into the Temple, and was walking through it, the chief priests and the elders of the people and the scribes came to Him as He was teaching the people and preaching the good news; saying to Him as they stood by, "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things, or who is giving you this authority!"

But Jesus said in answer: "I will ask a word of you as well!--and if you answer Me, then I will declare to you by what authority I am doing these things.

"John's baptism was from... what? Was it from heaven, or was it from men? Answer Me!"

Now they began to reason among themselves, saying, "If we say 'from heaven', he will declare to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?!'

"But may we say, 'from men'...? All the people will stone us!--for they are convinced that John was a prophet indeed..."

And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know from where."

Jesus also strongly declared to them, "Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things!

"But what do you think about this?

"A man had two children, and coming to the first he said, 'Child, go work today in my vineyard.'

"And he answered and said, 'I will, sir!'... but he did not go.

"And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered saying, 'I will not!'

"Afterward though, he regretted and went.

"Which of the two does the will of his father?"

They said, "The latter."

Jesus said to them: "I tell you truly: the prostitutes and the traitors ('tribute collectors', collaborating with the Romans for profit) are entering into the kingdom of God ahead of you!

"For John came to you in the road of fair-togetherness, and you did not believe him; but the traitors and the prostitutes did believe him! Yet you, seeing this, did not even regret after this to believe him!!

"Hear another parable!

"There is a man, a landowner, who 'plants a vineyard and puts a wall around it and digs a vat beneath its winepress and builds a tower' (quoting Isaiah about Jerusalem and Israel)--and rents it out to tenant farmers, and then goes on a journey far away.

"Now when the season of fruits approaches, he sends his slaves to the tenant farmers to receive his produce from them.

"But the tenant farmers, taking his slaves--

"lash the first he sent, sending him away with nothing

"and stone the second he sent, wounding him in the head and treating him in dishonor

"and murder the third he sent!

"Again!--he sends another group of slaves, larger than the first.

"But they do the same to them, indeed, beating some and killing others.

"Now the landowner says, 'What will I do?!'

"Yet one more he had--his beloved son.

"He also sends his son to them, the last, saying, 'They will respect my son, the beloved, as equal to me!'

"But when those tenant farmers saw the son, they reasoned among themselves... 'This is the heir! Come, we should kill him, and have his inheritance for ourselves!'

[Footnote: In the legal standards of the time, the tenant farmers could inherit the land if they retained operational possession of it for three years.]

"And they take him... and throw him out of the vineyard...

"and slay him.


"Whenever the Lord of the vineyard comes--what will He do to those tenant farmers?"

They are saying to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, destroying them!--and will rent out the vineyard to other tenant farmers, who will pay him the proceeds in their seasons!"

Jesus is saying to them: "He will indeed be coming; and will be destroying the tenant farmers; and will be giving the vineyard to others.

"Have you not even read this Scripture yet? What is this then that is written: (quoting a Psalm)

The stone the builders rejected
became the chief of the corner;
this came from the Lord,
and it is miraculous in our sight!

"So I say to you: the kingdom of God will be taken away (from you), and be given to a nation producing its fruits.

"And he who falls on this stone, will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."

Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking of them. And when they heard it, they said, "May it never be!!"

But Jesus answered and spoke to them in parables again (giving them another chance to repent without denouncing them openly in front of the people), and said:

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man, a king, who makes a wedding feast for his son.

"Now he sends out his slaves to call those invited into the wedding feast... but they would not come.

"Again he sends out other slaves, saying, 'Tell those invited, "Look!--I have prepared my dinner! My oxen and my fattened livestock are sacrificed! All is ready! Come for the wedding feast!"'

"But they, not caring, went their way, one to his field, another to work at his merchandise; yet the others seized his slaves, and abused them, and killed them.

"Now the king is enraged, and sending his armies, destroys those murderers, setting their city on fire!

"Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding indeed is ready--but those invited were unworthy.

"'Go then!--to the highway exits, and call to the wedding whomever you may be finding there!'

"And those slaves, going out into the streets, gather together all whom they find, both good and evil; and filled is the wedding with people reclining to eat!

"Now the king, coming in to look at the people reclining, saw a man there who hasn't put on any wedding cloth; and he is saying to him, 'Friend--how did you come to be in here having no wedding cloth?'

"And he was quiet.

[Footnote: those holding wedding feasts commonly offered a special celebration sash to those attending, especially if they had no proper celebration clothes--which none of these people would. The man knows the wealthy king offered the sash freely at the door; he simply refused to accept or wear the sash, basically insisting on eating at the king's gracious feast on his own terms.]

"Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him, hands and feet, and cast him into the outer darkness!--there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

For many are called (adds the Disciple) but few are chosen. [See first comment below for a footnote here.]

Now the scribes and the chief priests were seeking that very hour to arrest Him, for they understood He spoke against them; but they feared the crowds--because these held Him to be a prophet.

And so they left Him and went away (for a while...)


Then (return the Scholar and the Follower to the tale) the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might be trapping Him in a statement, in order to take hold of a word against Him, so as to deliver Him up to the rule and authority of the governor.

Now they watched Him, and along with the Herodians they sent their disciples to Him as spies, pretending to be fair themselves.

And they questioned Him, saying: "Rabbi--we know you are truthful, not bending to what anybody else thinks; for you teach the way of God correctly, in truth, and do not watch the face of people.

"So tell us, what do you think? Is it allowed to pay poll-tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?"

[Note: the point being, that Jesus will either look to the crowd like a supporter of the oppressive pagan overlords--which is why the Sanhedrin was unpopular at this time--or else they expect Him to play to the crowd, giving them grounds to hand Him over to Pilate as a rebel against the Empire.]

But Jesus detected their treacherous trickery, saying to them, "You hypocrites! Why do you test Me?

"Bring Me a poll-tax denarius. Show it to Me."

And they brought Him a daywage.

Now He is saying to them: "Whose inscription and image is this?"

They are saying to Him, "Caesar's."

So He is saying to them: "Then pay up to Caesar (the things that are) Caesar's; but to God (the things that are) God's!"

And hearing this, they greatly marvel, unable to seize His word by strength in front of the people; and they become silent, and leaving Him they come away.


On that day there came to Him some of the Sadducees--who say (adds the Scholar, Disciple and Follower) there is no resurrection.

[Note: nor angels, nor did they admit any books but the Five Books of Moses as Scripture, all of which is also relevant to the disputation here.]

And they question Him, saying, "Rabbi, Moses writes for us (in Deuteronomy), saying that 'If a man's brother dies'--having a wife--'leaving no child, his brother should take the wife and raise up seed to his brother.'

"Now there were seven brothers with us (they continued); and the first took a wife, and died without child, leaving his wife for his brother.

"And the second took her, and died without child.

"And in the same way the third also took her; and in the same way, down to the seventh, the seven all left no children and died.

"Last of all, the woman also finally died.

"In the resurrection, therefore, which one's wife will she be? For the seven all had her as wife!"

But answering, Jesus said to them:

"Is this not the reason that you are deceived: that you do not know the Scriptures, nor yet the power of God?!

"The children of this age are marrying and are giving out in marriage; but those deemed worthy of that time and the resurrection from the dead, who rise from the dead: they neither marry in the resurrection, nor do they give in marriage. For neither can they die anymore, for they are equal to angels of God in heaven, and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection.

"But concerning the dead, that they are raised again, even Moses shows! Have you not read in the scroll of Moses, at the (passage concerning the burning) thorn bush where God declared to him--to you--saying: 'I AM the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'??

"Now, He is not the God of the dead (or of corpses), but of the living; for all are alive to Him. So you are greatly deceived."

And when the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

But when the Pharisees heard that He muzzles (or strangles!) the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.

Yet some of the scribes answered and said, "Rabbi, you say well."

And one of them--a lawyer (of the Pharisees)--approaching and hearing them as they discuss, and seeing He answered them well, asked Him a test:

"Rabbi... what is the foremost commandment of all the Law?"

Jesus declared to him with force: "The foremost commandment of all, is:

"HEAR O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD THE LORD IS ONE!! (the Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy)


"This is the great and the foremost commandment.

"Yet the second is similar to it:


"There is no commandment greater than these--upon which are hanging all the Law and the Prophets."

...and the scribe said to Him,

"On truth, Rabbi!!--you have given the best sayings, that He is One; and there is no other more than He!

"And to love Him with all your will, and with all your soul, and with all your comprehension, and with all your strength--and to love one's neighbor as yourself--is excessively more than all the offerings of ascent, and the sacrifices!"

And Jesus, seeing that he answered in understanding, said to him:

"You are not far from the kingdom of God."


And from that day, no one dared to question Him again on anything.

Matthew 21:23-46
Matthew 22:1-40
Matthew 22:46b
Mark 11:27-33
Mark 12:1-34
Luke 20:1-40

[Next time: The Greater Condemnations (Part 1)]


Jason Pratt said…
....... [First deferred footnote here.]

This story, reported by the Disciple, ends with the moral “For many are called, but few chosen.” This, however, runs considerably against the tenor of both parts of the whole preceding parable, and I suspect it is a gloss either by an early copyist or perhaps by the Disciple himself, who is reporting this story independently of the Scholar. (The semi-parallel, reported on a completely different occasion in GosLuke 14:16-24, features no similar moral, which is unique in form and claim in the Gospels.) Nor is there any textual indication of it being a word by Jesus, other than its proximity to the story. It does appear to be present since the early texts, though.

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